Dáil debates

Tuesday, 9 July 2024

Residential Tenancies (Amendment) (No. 2) Bill 2024: Second Stage


7:25 pm

Photo of Catherine ConnollyCatherine Connolly (Galway West, Independent) | Oireachtas source

Cuirim fáilte mhór roimh an mBille seo. Níl i gceist leis ach Bille gearr le sé mhír. Tá sé níos lú ná seacht leathanach. Gabhaim buíochas leis an Aire agus an Roinn as ucht a gcuid oibre. Is Bille dearfach é. Tá sé beagáinín maol ach cuirim fáilte roimhe. Is bun agus barr an scéil é nach mbeidh ar dhaltaí íoc as bliain iomlán. Ní bheidh siad ach ag íoc as an tréimhse acadúla. Is maith an rud é sin. Beidh siad in ann úsáid a bhaint as an RTB. Is maith an rud é sin ach, cosúil le mo chomhghleacaí anseo, aithním go bhfuil gá le hacmhainní a chur sa treo sin. Tá an RTB faoi bhrú damanta faoi láthair. Níl an bord in ann déileáil leis na cásanna atá os a chomhair so beidh gá le tuilleadh acmhainní. Beidh gá le hathbhreithniú a dhéanamh ar an mBille freisin ionas go mbeidh monatóireacht i gceist le fáil amach an bhfuil sé ag feidhmiú.

I will not repeat all that, but I welcome this very short Bill and I thank the Minister of State for his work. Students will only pay for the academic term, which is to be welcomed, as are the other positive things in it. The RTB is under-resourced, under pressure and there are constant complaints about it. I do not like to stand here and castigate an organisation or body, but we are receiving ongoing representations about the delays. Obviously, when that is the case, an analysis should be done on what resources are needed to fund the body so it can function effectively, rather than us giving out about it.

While I have the opportunity to say this, I spoke when Deputy Mairéad Farrell brought her motion before the Dáil. I think that was last week, although I have lost track. I have the opportunity to repeat this point. I did not realise I would be speaking on this section, but I think it is important to repeat for once that we cannot deal with the student accommodation crisis in isolation. It is just not possible. The crisis did not happen overnight, and it has been created. The Minister of State knows that, and I know he inherited this situation. It was market-driven for a long time. I watched in desperation as a local councillor. I did not just watch, but I spoke out and got nowhere when the Corrib Great Southern was sold off by Bertie Ahern after he had promised that he would not do so. It was right beside what was then GMIT but has been demolished since. It was obvious that we should have taken it over, put a bridge across it and used it as student accommodation, but that did not happen. Over and over and over, we threw it onto the market.

The university was a disgrace, and I am on record as saying it was a disgrace, as were most universities. There was huge improvement with the new president. Tá sé ag éirí as. Unfortunately, the new president who made a big change on every level is leaving earlier to do other things. Yet, there has been no attempt to build accommodation on campus. They are doing a deal with a school to transfer up there. These are terrible decisions and this was rather than using the land they had to build student accommodation that was funded by the State. Money should be given to the universities so they can build, so there could be affordable rent for students and so everyone can participate.

We have created an utter horror on the ground and the Minister of State knows that. We hear of details, such as those to which Deputy Harkin has referred, about how there is an announcement of €100 million, but there are no details about it. Again, I watch in horror because we have seen this with the primary care centres. We have seen the primary care centres ostensibly being built for the public, but they are not at all. The only part the public gets to play is by paying the money over to a private contractor so it can lease it back to us for 25 years or whatever term. There are no public buildings. We are gaining no public buildings. I am dreading that this is exactly what we are doing, and I have tabled a series of questions.

I was impressed, maybe foolishly, or naively might be a better word, when the current Taoiseach was a Minister because he said he was going to facilitate the building of student accommodation in public buildings on public land. Yet, that is not what is happening, and it is very difficult to follow the intricate trade arrangements that are being made by the market. We have therefore learned nothing. The market is a disaster when it is left unregulated and when it is not balanced with the State.

We know this from the privatisation of refuse services in Galway and elsewhere in the country, as well as all over the world. I mentioned Toronto and the campaign of the unions, but some unions stood idly by when the service was being privatised. I fully support their campaign to remunicipalise all of these essential services. "Public service" became a bad word. Jobs in the tech area were lauded and praised, unlike jobs in public bodies. Members might remember all the debates at the time of the crisis when we were encouraged to disparage the public service. I accept that we must make it more efficient but we must have public service, we must resource it and we must have government policies that recognise that certain services are essential in a civilised society, and in a republic. I will repeat this over and over. We must have public education in public buildings. We must also have public housing on public land. The prices that we hear for affordable houses are just bananas.

I will finish on a point made by Deputy Canney on infrastructure and regional development, because it resonated with me. An Cheathrú Rua has no sewage treatment plant. The raw sewage is going straight into the sea. I have been elected since 1999, when I was a city councillor, and I have been watching matters with utter despair. Irish Water inherited the situation. It went with a site that was not suitable. There cannot be balanced regional development without infrastructure. Similarly in Galway city, there is the Ardaun corridor, which was commenced when I was a city councillor, but there has been no progress on it. I have raised previously the lack of infrastructure, which means we cannot have balanced regional development. Then we have the absence of trains. All of us on this side of the House are imploring the Government to provide rail services. Does the Minister of State remember that? I will not mention their names, but various people said on RTÉ that it would never work. The rail line to Limerick is a great success, but those same people have not come back and said they were wrong. They are still putting obstacles to the roll-out of the full rail service. I am over time, so I will stop.


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